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‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ Season Finale Review: “The Lovers”

Da Vinci's Demons "The Lovers"
Starz

With an eight episode order, ‘Da Vinci’s Demons‘ plays more like a miniseries, because just as we were settling into the rhythms of the first season it’s now over. But after last week’s episode, we also know that anything could happen by the end of tonight’s finale (even though the show has been picked up for season 2).

The episode opens in Constantinople, thirteen years ago, with people praying. Al-Rahim tries to look into the future and sees darkness approaching, while Cosimo Medici makes light of the situation. Al-Rahim then says there is hope in Leonardo Da Vinci, and we can see that he’s with a group of important people, which includes the mapmaker from the episode “The Devil.” Cosimo then gets a compass-like thing (an astrolabe) that is to be delivered when it is requested. But Cosimo doesn’t go for all this prophecy talk,even though Al-Rahims thinks they’re all bound to suffer.

Back in the show’s present, Leonardo is readying to leave Florence when Zoroaster and Nico tell him they’re going with him on his trip. Da Vinci sees a bird (the same sort he saw when his mom disappeared) and decides to follow it, which leads him to Al-Rahim.

Lorenzo and his people are eating on the lawn, and he doesn’t know what’s happened to his brother Giuliano. He thinks his brother has run away from his arranged marriage. Francesco Pazzi goes to Rirario, and thinks they should kill Lorenzo and Clarice now while they have a chance. Riario advises strongly against it because Giuliano’s whereabouts are unaccounted for. Leonardo shows Al-Rahim his keys, but Da Vinci gets flustered by taking things on faith, not proof, and is sick of chasing a book of leaves that sounds more like religion than science. Back at the lawn Lunch, Lorenzo is worried that he’s offending the Pazzis with his brother’s delay. Pazzi just wants to get the murders over with, but his conspirators again advise against it. Captain Dragonetti suggests that Guiliano went out for one last fling.

Al-Rahim tells Leonardo about a ship he should book passage on, and about Cosimo’s Astrolabe, which he’ll need to find the new world. Vanessa is being bled as she doesn’t feel well. It turns out she’s pregnant with Giuliano’s baby. Lorenzo rushes down to find Guiliano’s squire dead, but there’s no trace of his brother.

We then cut to Giuliano, who was stabbed but didn’t die! He’s been rescued by a man and he wants to go to his brother right away. Leonardo goes to Verrocchio to find a passage into Cosimo’s tomb. Verrocchio warns Leonardo about his quest as Leonardo decodes the tomb and finds the astrolabe.

Giuliano is on horseback when Captain Dragonetti finds him. Giuliano explains that Lucrezia is a spy for Riario. Leonardo tries to break his contract with Lorenzo, but he counters with another offer. Leonardo breaks it to Lorenzo that the mercenary Lorenzo hired may now be working for the pope. To stay, Leonardo asks to have Lucrezia, but then a guard interrupts to inform them about Giuliano. As they are told, so are Pazzi and Riario. Riario then plots to poison Lorenzo and his family during communion. Giuliano lays out what he knows to Dragonetti, and as he does he can tell that Dragonetti was working with Rome. But Dragonetti doesn’t kill him, and says he just wants the town to fear God, not its masters.

Leonardo books travel on a ship as Riario plots to take over Florence. As Dragonetti escorts Giuliano back to Florence, he kills one of his men, and lets Giuliano free. As Leonardo packs, he finds Lucrezia has come into his room. He lays out all the bad things she’s done to him, while she explains all the machinations he couldn’t see, the things she did to protect him. Leonardo mentions her father, and then explains that her father didn’t want to be set free, making her transgressions meaningless. He plans to leave when she explains Riario and Pazzi’s plot.

Back in Rome, the pope meets with Lucrezia’s father to play a board game, where the Pope explains he plans to take Florence and then the Ottoman empire. Lucrezia’s father then reveals that he’s the pope’s brother. In Florence, Pazzi’s poisoning plot is moving forward, though Pazzi worries about Leonardo acting as a spoiler. Vanessa and Verrocchio have a moment, while the priests lay out the poisoned wafers. The Medicis show up for church, while Leonardo shows up at the boat, and sees that Zoroaster has checked with Tarot cards on where Leonardo was. Da Vinci then realizes mass has begun. Leonardo then asks Zoroaster and Nico to stall the boat as Leonardo rushes off to church.

After a montage showing Lucrezia outside the church, what’s happening inside the church and Leonardo running to it, Guiliano shows up just in time to renounce Francesco, who cries out “Death to the Medicis” when a fight breaks out. Priests stab Giuliano to death, as Vanessa hovers over his body and tells him that she’s pregnant. A priest then goes to kill Clarice and her four daughters when Lucrezia kills the Priest. Outside, Riario confronts Lucrezia and Clarice, and grabs hold of Lucrezia when Dragonetti shows up, who lets Riario have her. Lorenzo and Pazzi swordfight, and Pazzi wounds Lorenzo on the neck when Leonardo shows up. Da Vinci’s outnumbered, but he sets up a smoke bomb that lets him and Lorenzo escape. Pazzi’s men try to chop down the door, and Riario shows up with Lucrezia and then grabs a hand cannon. As Leonardo tends to Lorenzo’s wounds, Lorenzo sees Lucrezia’s ring around Leonardo’s neck, and swears that if they survive Lorenzo will kill them both.

And, season! Okay, so this was action-packed in a way that was sort of frustrating. I’m not referring to Giuliano’s resurrection, though — on some level I liked that because the show seemed to be following the HBO pattern of having something amazing/terrible happen in the penultimate episode of the season. I want to give credit to the show that they were actually making fun of that. Then again, they killed Giuliano for a second time in this episode, which almost makes for an absurd joke. Perhaps he’ll live until the beginning of the second season, only to be stabbed to death for a third time.

No, the problem here was that they were counting on a second season, so there’s a lot of balls left in the air. This is always a dangerous proposition in a serialized show because people may wait breathlessly for Season 2 and be disappointed with how it all sorts out. The writers intentionally wrote themselves into a corner, and that’s fine, but if your seasons are only eight episodes long, hopefully you don’t waste that much time getting everyone out of their jams when things pick back up next year. Tonight’s finale also pointed out the limitations of the show, as when the big sword fight broke out in the church, you could see that the budget had been stretched thin.

If Season 2 weren’t already guaranteed at this point, it might be fair to say this was a bad season because there was a lot of build up but little payoff. But knowing they’ll be more makes the first eight episodes feel like a first chapter, and that’s satisfying. The pieces are in place, so it will be interesting to see how they move them. All in all, it was an engaging season, but hopefully there’s a little more meat on the bones next year.

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